We live in a world of hyper change.
The Cape Town Commitment states:
Almost everything about the way we live, think and relate to one another is changing at an accelerating pace. For good or ill, we feel the impact of globalization, of the digital revolution, and of the changing balance of economic and political power in the world. Some things we face cause us grief and anxiety – global poverty, war, ethnic conflict, disease, the ecological crisis and climate change. But one great change in our world is a cause for rejoicing – and that is the growth of the global Church of Christ.
These words were written in 2010 but could have been written today!
Our globalized world has experienced tremendous shocks during COVID, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and increasing nationalism and protectionism in many countries.
The digital revolution has accelerated! Especially with the incredible power of generative AI, we are living through a season of dramatic change.
I don’t know how to evaluate the changing balance of economic and political power in the world, but that seems to be a constant throughout human history.
They also spoke to other constants of human experience - issues that I wish would disappear or ebb and flow, but that seem to be with us. These are mega trends that may not ever find resolution, or will only be addressed over the course of generations: global poverty, war, ethnic conflict, disease, the ecological crisis and climate change.
Yet amidst these challenges, they identify a reason for hope: the growth of the Church of Christ.
Here is the latest statistical research, done by a team at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary:
From 2000 to mid-2023, the global population increased from 6.148 billion to 8.045 billion people. During that time, the number of affiliated Christians grew from 1.888 billion to 2.482 billion. That is tremendous numeric growth!
Yet, it also represents Christianity remaining roughly the same percentage of the global population. In 2000, Christians were 32.3% of the world population; in 2023, they estimate Christians comprise 32.4%.
And in light of the many scandals within American evangelicalism, I sometimes wonder if there is a substantial gap between “people who claim to be Christian” and “people who are united to Jesus.”
As Jesus taught, " “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
What do you think? Are there more disciples of Jesus in the world?
Or are there more people who respond “Christian” when asked about their religious identification on surveys?
Second, how do you feel about these surveys? For instance, there was a time when only ten thousand people believed in Jesus. They comprised a very tiny percentage of the world population. If there were 200 million people alive, then they were a mere 0.005% of the population!
What difference does it make to you if Christianity is the world’s largest religion - or not?